"The day was hot, the sun high, and the silence was so thick, you'd have thought the sky didn't have any air in it." From "Darkness Peering"
14 year old Melissa D'Augostino is found murdered in a cow pasture in Flowering Dogwood, Maine.
Police Chief Nalen Storrow leads the investigation. He is deeply troubled, not only because a crime like this shouldn't happen in a quiet town like his but also because he feels protective towards his 9 year old daughter, Rachel, and fear for his 18 year old son, Billy, who has had a troubled past and is a possible suspect in this crime. The first portion of the novel ends with Nalen trying to cope with the mounting stress.
Eighteen years go by. The first crime has never been resolved. Rachel is now a detective and her brother Billy works as a teacher's aide in the school for blindness and special needs. Rachel decides to reopen the case.
Claire Castillo is the main teacher under whom Billy works. The children adore both of their teachers but Claire feels compelled to tell Billy that he is being over friendly towards one of the children and reminds Billy that even though the child has special needs, she is a young woman of 16 and might misunderstand.
Outside of the classroom, Claire and Billy are developing more of a relationship when Claire disappears. There is no sign of her and soon, old memories return. Rachel is in charge of the investigation and Billy is, once again, a suspect.
Alice Blanchard has written a compelling story. She deals with developmentally disabled students intelligently. Her characterizations work well and Rachel is very likable to this reader.
I would have liked to see more of the reasons behind Nalen's actions brought out. The way his part in the story concludes seemed abrupt.
Toward the end of the novel, when the reason behind the murder's actions come out, this reader would have liked a better resolution. However, I think that Blanchard was giving a lesson that all things do not come to satisfactory endings in life and justice doesn't always prevail.